[lg policy] New Jersey: Lawmakers: Check for DUI in English
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Sun Aug 8 13:59:49 UTC 2010
Lawmakers: Check for DUI in English
By JANE ROH • Courier-Post Staff • August 7, 2010
Assembly members from the 8th Legislative District are introducing a
bill they say will close a perceived loophole in the state's DUI laws.
Last month, the state Supreme Court, in a 4-3 ruling, overturned the
conviction of a Spanish-speaking man who refused to take a
Breathalyzer test because he said he did not understand the arresting
officer's instructions. "This is an unrealistic expectation in a state
where as many as 150 different languages are spoken. The ruling
complicates the arrest process for our police officers, and piles an
unnecessary financial burden on municipalities and on our taxpayers,"
said Assemblywoman Dawn Marie Addiego, R-Burlington. Addiego, along
with district mate Scott Rudder, argued that under the state's implied
consent law, officers may presume that all licensed drivers are aware
they must submit to testing after a suspected DUI pullover. The bill
they are introducing requires police to only read a standard statement
But officers may also choose to read the statement in another
language. The state already requires them to read a statement
explaining why suspects must submit to testing, and in April the state
Attorney General's office made text and audio of 10 foreign-language
versions of the statement available online. "Driving is a privilege,
not a right. The rules are written in multiple languages and the test
is given in at least English and Spanish," Addiego said Friday.
"Everyone as a result has prior knowledge that there is implied
The written driver's test is also offered in Arabic, Chinese, French,
German, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, according
to the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Applicants speaking other
languages may use an approved interpreter. Drivers who refuse the test
because they were too intoxicated to understand instructions are not
immune to conviction. Addiego and Rudder's bill would also not exempt
drivers who can't understand instructions because of language
"If you're driving in the state of New Jersey you already have to
understand English. It just should be a minimal expectation," said
Rudder. "This bill makes this a simpler process for the police officer
who is most at risk in these situations and will relieve
municipalities across the state from having to fund a dozen or more
translators." Rudder said he was confident the bill would survive a
court challenge, and that the Office of Legislative Services had
vetted the proposals.
"The Speaker will review this bill and its merits, just as she does
with all legislation advocated by Assembly members," said Tom Hester
Jr., spokesman for Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver, D-Essex, and the Assembly
majority. "But it's also important to note the decision written by the
Chief Justice directed the Motor Vehicle Commission and Attorney
General's office to develop a means to properly inform everyone about
the breath-test requirement, and the Speaker looks forward to seeing
what method is developed to accomplish that goal."
The DUI conviction of German Marquez, stemming from a Sept. 20, 2007,
car crash in Plainfield, still stands. A spokesman for the attorney
general's office declined to comment on the legislation specifically,
but agreed that the Supreme Court ruling was flawed. "The ruling
effectively provides an immunity claim in a prosecution for any drunk
driving suspect who doesn't speak a language the officer is unable to
identify or translate," said Paul Loriquet. Addiego denied that the
bill was designed to target foreigners.
"I really wasn't looking at this with regard to immigrants," she said.
"I was looking at it more from the municipalities' point of view," she
said, describing the July 12 ruling as another unfunded state mandate.
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